First published in Britain in 1984, Nick Kent’s book The Dark Stuff was not only a vital part of our uni reading list, but is just a general staple for music journalists everywhere.
Nick Kent started writing about music in 1972, at the age of 21. Contributing to the New Musical Express (NME) and later The Face, a music and lifestyle magazine in the 1980s, Kent is now considered one of the most important and influential music journalists in the UK.
The book itself is made up of different chapters about different artists, some of whom he describes more kindly than others. He talks about Brian Wilson, how he went from a Beach Boy to a lonely nutcase and back again, exploited by family and friends, while still being pop music’s best songwriter. In another chapter he talks about the times he’s sat down with Iggy Pop throughout the years, drawing a picture of the latter in various stages of his career and life. He talks violence with Guns’n’ Roses and labels with Prince.
What makes this book so interesting is the way Kent talks to these people. It’s incredibly personal and you always feel like he pulls more from them and sees more than they would like. And sometimes it just feels like the drugs have mellowed them out so much that they don’t even care.
Kent doesn’t paint a pretty picture most of the time, although he does speak more kindly of some than others. While Kurt Cobain’s death for him was a different experience than for everybody else, you can’t help but hear the undying admiration for Iggy and bottomless hatred for former bandmate Sid Vicious.
All of this, combined with a vivid language, clearly influenced by Kent’s two main inspirations, Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson, makes for a fascinating and oddly satisfyingly depressing read that will have you leafing through your record collection and hear it all a bit differently.
“It needs to be mentioned that Mr. Kent has a side to his history as sordid and generally unsavory and sometimes downright hilarious as anyone described in this book.
An unlikely, ungainly figure, well over six feet tall, unsteadily negotiating the sidewalks of London and LA like a great palsied mantis, dressed in the same tattered black-leather and velvet guitar-slinger garb regardless of season or the passing of time, hospital-thin, with a perpetually dripping bright red nose caused by an equally perpetual drug shortage, all brought to life by a wrist-waving, head-flung-back Keith Richards effect, and an abiding interest in all dirt. That’s Nick Kent for you in the seventies and eighties. In short, a true rock’n’roller: someone who cared.”